The history of the RAZR: Part I

The history of the RAZR: Part I


Sometimes I feel the RAZR deserves much more credit than it got. People have a horrible misconception that it's just an old flip phone, when it actually was a revolutionary device that changed the way people interact with their smartphones, care for customization and good designs. So I will release three separate articles about the history of this amazing phone.

The History of the MOTOROLA RAZR, part I

Founded in 1928, Motorola invented the car radio, the walkie-talkie, and the mobile phone. It was always the innovator. The first HDTV standard was shown by Motorola. All the moon landing radio transmissions and images were shown live to over 600 hundred million people back in 1969, thanks to Motorola, who transmitted Neil Armstrong’s memorable words (“It is one small step for a man but one giant leap for mankind”). Motorola not only created the flip phone and vibrator mode (StarTAC, 1996), but also created the most popular mobile phone of all time: the RAZR.

The RAZR. The phone that started the idea of buying a new device every year and becoming a fan of a product line. If it wasn’t for it, there wouldn’t be an iPhone, or a Galaxy, or even any smartphone today. Released back in July 2004, it was the best of the best. It was impossibly thin, at 13.9mm. The standard was 20mm or so. Razr also featured unique materials like glass and aluminum. And the fun fact over here is that Motorola never thought it would be a success! They actually thought it would sell under a million devices. 

Boom! The Razr quickly became the phone everyone wanted. With over 100 million units sold within 28 months, the Razr became the fastest selling mobile of all time (until 2015). Motorola milked its success by releasing dozens of colour variations of it: Black, Silver, Pink, Purple, Blue, Gold, Red, Green, Lime, Miami Ink tatoos, just to name a few. Eveyone in the world would have a different version of the Razr, because of the different technologies countries offered. So apart from the V3, the V3i, V3c, V3m, V3r, V3s, V3im, V3x, V3xx, V3re, V3a, V3t, V3i D&G, MAXX V6, were born. From 2004 to 2007, Motorola kept releasing Razrs based in the V3 design. They were all the same phone, though, the RAZR. You can’t say Motorola released 26 versions of the Razr because there was only one Razr. Smartphone manufacturers release different RAM versions or 16/32/64GB variants, and that's what Motorola did for last decade's standards: colors and 2G/3G variants. And making a Razr for everyone worked very well.

The unpredictable and surprising success of this little flip phone made Motorola think they could release more exciting products in different form factors. And so they did. 2005 saw the release of the SLVR, the thinnest phone in the world at less than 11mm, and the PEBL, a fashion-centric mobile similar to a pebble. Although these phones sold very well, their sales were not even close to the ones of the Razr, which was the star of the show. 2005 also saw the release of the ROKR, the first true iPhone. It was not a success, though. 

Steve Jobs wanted to install the itunes player inside a Razr and call it an iPhone. Motorola wanted the Razr just for themselves. The lack of collaboration between the companies resulted in the Rokr E1. Steve Jobs even boycotted the product by releasing the iPod Nano the same day and showing how the Rokr wasn’t a good music player. But that’s another story. By 2006 the Razr was already a legend, and spin-offs kept coming, making Motorola's market share skyrocket. 

A stylish flip phone called KRZR, with advanced features and an improved OS, and also the RIZR, a slider version of the Razr with improved functionality. Las but not least, the moto Q, the first smartphone to sell over a million copies in the USA. Moto Q was the smartphone version of the RAZR. It came with Windows Mobile, it let you to install a wifi SD card, and it even allowed an extended battery.

But the star was still the original RAZR. 2006 ended really well for Moto, with over 65 million phones sold in the last quarter of the year, more Razrs sold than any other quarter, new colours for RIZR, KRZR and exciting new spin-offs about to come. What was  about to go wrong? The price of the Razr. The phone was already two years old by that time and Nokia, Samsung and LG were releasing improved copies of the Razr. 

Motorola's component supplier was also lagging behind, so the whole product cycle had to be delayed for almost one year. All Motorola could do was lower the price of their phones in order to compete. It worked well at first, but by the beginning of 2007 the newly released RIZRs, KRZRs, Qs and ROKRs for that year were delayed almost six months. 

Everyone was expecting these phones to be huge, given the fact that the last three years had been stunning for them. But 2007’s first six months, weren’t that great. They kept selling dozens of millions of RAZRs as always, yet sales from others were cooling off, and the competition was harder every single day. But they weren’t worried at all. In the meantime, they put all their efforts into building the successor of this famous phone, the RAZR2.

Will the RAZR2 succeed? We will find out in part II.


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